By GREG FOX
OBSERVER Staff Writer
SHERIDAN - For the small town of Sheridan, a recent influx of businesses coming to the area has been greeted as good news during a time of a sluggish national economy.
OBSERVER File Photo
Dunkirk Metal Products of Western New York, LLC will be moving into this facility in the Chadwick Bay Industrial Park by the end of the current quarter.
At a recent town board meeting, Code Enforcement Officer James Crowell announced that five new businesses within the past few months have started up, or will be starting up, in the town: Creation Station, Cotton Drilling Company, Inc., Nulife Glass New York, Inc., Dunkirk Metal Products of Western New York, LLC and H. Olsen & Sons Contractors, Inc.
For an area with a population of about 2,600, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, an influx of so many businesses in such a short amount of time is "significant," as Crowell said at the meeting.
So, why the business boom? Why now?
"Small towns, unlike big government, don't require these businesses to jump through all these hurdles," Sheridan Town Supervisor Louis Delmonte said. "I think we're a little more accessible, a little more open to sit and discuss different things with them. We don't want to discourage them, we want to come to town and stay in town. That's the attitude you have to have."
With Sheridan's minimal layers of government and special districts, Delmonte said a reasonably low tax rate might also attract businesses to the area.
According to the town clerk's office, the baseline tax rate in the town for the 2013 fiscal year is $14.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This includes taxes from the county, as well as the town itself. After factoring in the 70 percent equalization rate, taxes come to $9.94 per $1,000.
Compared with neighboring towns, that number is lower. According to the Chautauqua County Real Property Tax Office, the town of Hanover's baseline tax rate for 2013 is $12.02 per $1,000. For the town of Villenova, it is $16.66. The town of Arkwright's is $15 and the town of Pomfret's is $10.28. The only lower baseline tax rate is the town of Dunkirk's, which is $9.55.
"In the last four years I've been supervisor, in regards to the town tax, we have not had a single increase since I've started," Delmonte said. "We do a really good job in controlling our taxes and looking at our expenditures and our budgets. The whole board works very hard to control that."
Delmonte also cited infrastructure as a reason for the business boom, with easy access to rural areas and the availability of railroads, waterways and even an airport in the town.
"Since Sheridan is between routes 5 and 20 and we have the Thruway on the Silver Creek end and the Thruway on the Dunkirk end, it really gives them easy road access, which I think is a huge part of it, too," he said.
Bill Daly, the administrative director and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, cited the large and resourceful facilities in Sheridan's Chadwick Bay Industrial Park as a reason for drawing so many businesses to that area.
"These are available buildings," he said. "And that's one thing we unfortunately don't have a lot of in the county. So, when people find a building that matches what they want to do, it's not difficult to get them to come here. That's the frustration of economic development; you may have people looking, but you don't have buildings that are going to be adequate in the long run."
Daly said that while all the buildings in the industrial park are now in use, several CCIDA-controlled vacant lots are still around that area and up for sale.
"This is some great raw land to do construction on, and it's right next to the industrial park," he said.
So, what about the five actual businesses themselves? What were their reasons for the move to Sheridan?
The OBSERVER recently caught up with the owners and presidents of the five companies, with the exception of Nulife Glass, to understand why they chose that town as their new hub for business.
The OBSERVER attempted to get in touch with Nulife several times, but was unsuccessful in doing so. According to a press release dated June 19, the cathode ray tube recycling company will bring 30 new jobs to the area.
"The New York Power Authority awarded the company with a low-cost power deal to attract the business to Chautauqua County," the press release reads. "The new facility will be powered by 100 percent green and sustainable energy supplied from the NYPA hydro-electric generating plant in Niagara Falls."
Nulife is in the process of cleaning up an abandoned facility on Middle Road in Sheridan, which was formerly occupied by Reflective Glass Products, Inc. The United Kingdom-based company will install furnaces in the facility before opening up sometime toward the end of the summer, according to Sheridan officials.
"Locating within the USA means there is now no need to export the glass waste, something which is becoming more difficult as the Federal (Environmental Protection Agency) steps up their oversight of waste exports to prevent toxic waste being dumped in developing nations who are not equipped to deal with it," the press release states.
The statement also says the recycling facility will take in up to 200 million pounds of cathode ray tube glass.
DUNKIRK METAL PRODUCTS
Joe Shull, president and partner at Dunkirk Metal Products, said his business is centralizing its Brocton and Dunkirk properties to the industrial park within the current quarter. The company will occupy the former Lorenzo Enterprises building there.
Shull really spoke to Daly's reasoning of the industrial park having available facilities for attracting businesses.
"We've looked at lots of inventory on buildings and nothing that we found that met our needs or criteria was in the city limits," he said.
Dunkirk Metal Products, which specializes as a one-stop job shop and manufacture fabricator, currently has 20 employees.
Shull said it makes better business sense to house the company under one roof so there wouldn't be constant shipping between two facilities. That, in turn, would cut costs and improve productivity, making it run more effectively. Shull also said the new Sheridan facility is bigger, which will help with growth.
Cyn Gailey and Barb Joy are the business partners for Creation Station, a working stained glass studio formerly located in Silver Creek. The studio sells work from about 30 local artists and offers a wide selection of beach and sea glass art.
Gailey explained why Creation Station moved to Route 20 in Sheridan in late April, citing a lack of parking space and a dying economy in Silver Creek.
"(At our new location), there is increased visibility with a lot of traffic going past here," she said. "Our art students are closer since we get a lot from Pennsylvania and Jamestown. We also have a parking lot now. Parking was a real problem at the old location and now we can accommodate buses and seniors. The retail space is also a lot bigger here. Business is definitely a lot better."
H. OLSEN & SONS CONTRACTORS
Gerald Olsen, president of H. Olsen & Sons Contractors, said his Forestville-based business is starting up a satellite building along Route 20 in Sheridan with the hopes of saving gas.
"We've already been doing a little bit of work there," he said. "We do a lot of work in Dunkirk and when I've got to drive 10 to 15 miles to Forestville with 20 trucks, do the math."
Olsen said while his business hasn't moved, he is "scratching the surface" to see how well the new satellite location will work.
The pavement, asphalt and driveway contracting service has been in operation since 1960 and is a family-owned business.
As for Don Cotton, the owner of Cotton Drilling, his family business was founded nearly 35 years ago. The company started up a new service on Center Road in Sheridan, which offers compressed natural gas to the public.
"I've lived here in Sheridan for a while, and I've been in the natural gas business for a while, so I figured offering CNG to the public would be a good idea," Cotton said. "People are still finding out about it since it started up last February, but it's been good business so far."
Cotton owns several hundred gas wells throughout the county and recently switched his company vehicles to natural gas, which helped spur his idea to start up the CNG filling station for his customers.
With all these new businesses moving to the small town of Sheridan, Supervisor Delmonte said that while it is very important to bring them to the area, it is just as important to protect the agriculture and look out for the residents within Sheridan.
"I think it means a lot that we, as a small town, are willing to work with people to hopefully establish and stay in our town. The last thing we want to do is discourage business," he said. "We want them to come to town and we want them to stay in town."
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